Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

Germany’s Seehofer says EU ‘patronizing’ eastern members on migrants — EU is unable to protect its external borders — Said European Commission’s “moralizing” tone toward eastern European states is wrong

March 18, 2018
March 18, 2018, at 12:02 a.m.

Germany’s Seehofer Says EU ‘Patronizing’ Eastern Members on Migrants

BERLIN (REUTERS) – German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has accused the European Union of adopting a patronizing stance in talks with eastern European members about the distribution of migrants.

Seehofer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CSU Bavarian allies, made the comments in an interview with German Sunday newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag, days after sparking a public outcry by saying Islam did not belong to Germany.

Image result for Die Welt am Sonntag, seehofer, photos

The former Bavarian premier is keen to show his party is tough on migration abuses ahead of October state elections in Bavaria, to win back voters who defected in large numbers to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sept. 24 national election. The AfD has also been critical of the EU.

Seehofer called for continued German border controls as long as the EU is unable to protect its external borders, and criticized the European Commission for what he called a “moralizing” tone toward eastern European states who have refused to take in asylum seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

Such an attitude was “counter-productive,” Seehofer said, adding, “Every country has its pride.”

The conservative politician, whose party has long been to the right of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, urged the EU to stop making decisions “over the heads” of member states.

“The EU commission is often patronizing,” he told the newspaper. “We need to put more energy into dialogue on the distribution of refugees. If we keep negotiating patiently, a majority of countries will support (it).”

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel

New Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had told Bild newspaper “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany,” but added that “the Muslims who live with us are, of course, part of Germany.

Other countries could contribute in other ways, perhaps by sending more personnel to the EU borders, or by contributing more for joint border patrols, he said.

Seehofer’s remarks could exacerbate tensions in the uneasy new “grand coalition” between Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats.

Merkel firmly rebuffed Seehofer last week, saying that Germany’s 4 million Muslims belonged to the country, as did their religion. Leading SPD members also criticized his remarks on Islam.

Johannes Kahrs, a member of parliament and spokesman for the conservative wing of the SPD, accused Seehofer of using his new ministerial post to campaign for the CSU in Bavaria.

“Building bridges and not digging trenches is the responsibility of all decent Germans,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper.


Germany: Is Islam Part of German Culture? Ministers Respond to Seehofer’s “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany.”

March 17, 2018

Chancellor Merkel led the response to the new interior minister’s remarks, saying the 4 million Muslims living in Germany and their religion belong in the country. SPD ministers called for practical integration measures.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel

New Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had told Bild newspaper “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany,” but added that “the Muslims who live with us are, of course, part of Germany.”

Seehofer, a former head of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), has always held a harder line on immigration than his coalition partners in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The CSU also faces state elections in October in which the Alternative for Germany (AfD), anti-immigrant party presents a challenge.

Asked about Seehofer’s remarks, Merkel said on Friday that while Germany was shaped by its Judeo-Christian heritage “there are 4 million Muslims living in Germany.”

“They can live their religion here, too,” the chancellor said. “These Muslims belong to Germany and in the same way their religion belongs to Germany, that is to say Islam.” She added that the form of Islam practiced must conform to the country’s constitution.

belongs to Germany.”

Chancellor reacts to a controversial interview by Interior Minister :

Read moreNet migration to Germany sank by half in 2016: statistics office

SPD ministers look to practicalities

Three Social Democratic Party (SPD) ministers reacted to Seehofer’s comments, calling for practical solutions rather than divisive debate.

Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley proposed an end to theoretical debate on the affiliation of Islam to Germany. “Theoretical debates have been going on for long enough,” Barley told Saturday’s edition of the Rheinische Post. Instead, the focus should be on practical solutions for problems: “As far as our values are concerned, this is and remains the fundamental law – the basis of our coexistence.”

Family Minister Franziska Giffey expressed a similar sentiment: “Local debates do not help at all,” she said during an interview with broadcaster ZDF. The focus should be on organizing the people who live in Germany, whatever their origin or religion, so they can live together and shape society’s social peace.


'Merkel contradicts Seehofer' was the Bild headline after his remarks‘Merkel contradicts Seehofer’ was the Bild headline after his remarks were put on the front page

Seehofer accused of electioneering

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil told Funke Media Group newspapers on Saturday, “We have to talk about work and education and about rules for our coexistence.”

“The debate that Horst Seehofer is continuing serves no substantive purpose and is being used to create a particular atmosphere ahead of the state election in Bavaria,” he said. Bavarians will vote for a state parliament in October.

Heil called for “fair chances and clear rules” for immigrants under the rule of law. He spoke out against any form of extremism but said that religious freedom existed in Germany and that included “the people of the Muslim faith” who also belonged to Germany.

Saturday’s newspapers in Germany also commented extensively on Seehofer’s remarks. Most focused on Seehofer’s use of his new role as federal interior minister to make political points ahead of his state election.

jm/sms (Reuters, dpa, AP)


Germany’s future interior minister Horst Seehofer vows to increase deportations — Announces “master plan” — “The new broom sweeps clean”

March 11, 2018

The incoming interior minister has said he has a “master plan for faster asylum procedures, and more consistent deportations.” He also said there was a need for a strong state to protect Germany’s liberal values.

CSU chief Horst Seehofer talking to reporters

Horst Seehofer, Germany’s designated interior minister, said he plans to put in place a “master plan” to speed up asylum procedures and ensure consistent deportations in comments published on Sunday.

“The number of deportations must be increased significantly. We need to take tougher action, especially in the case of criminals and perpetrators among asylum seekers,” Seehofer told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Seehofer, who has been critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, said decisions on asylum applications must be made in a few months rather than in a year or more.

Read moreOpinion: An ‘upper limit’ on refugees — by any other name

‘Strong state’

The head of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) vowed to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward criminals.

“We want to remain an open-minded and liberal country. But when it comes to protecting our citizens, we need a strong state. I’ll make sure of that,” Seehofer said.

The future interior minister called for effective video surveillance at every hot spot in the country.

“There has to be a consensus throughout Germany that we will no longer tolerate lawless zones,” he said.

Seehofer will take over the newly renamed and enhanced Interior, Construction and Homeland (“Heimat”) Ministry in the upcoming coalition government.

Read moreA deeper look at Germany’s new Interior and Heimat Ministry

ap/aw (Reuters, dpa)

Buddhist mobs target Sri Lanka’s Muslims despite state of emergency

March 7, 2018


COLOMBO (Reuters) – Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and businesses belonging to Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims overnight, police said on Wednesday, despite the imposition of a state of emergency to restore peace in the bitterly divided island.

Police imposed an indefinite curfew in the central highlands district of Kandy where the violence has been centered since Sunday night following the death of a Buddhist youth in an altercation with a group of Muslims.

But police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said there had been “several incidents” throughout Tuesday night in the Kandy area, popular with tourists for its tea gardens.

Sri Lankan soldiers and police officers outside a vandalized building in Digana, a suburb of Kandy, on Tuesday after mob attacks there. Credit Pradeep Pathiran/Associated Press

“The police arrested seven people. Three police officers were injured from the incidents,” Gunasekara told Reuters. There was no information about how many civilians had been injured in the attacks, he said.

Tension has been growing between the two communities in Sri Lanka over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalizing Buddhist archaeological sites.

Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

President Maithripala Sirisena imposed a state of emergency for seven days on Tuesday, aiming to stop the violence from spreading to other parts of the country still healing from a 26-year civil war against Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.


Elite Sri Lankan forces and police officers stand guard near a house burnt down in the clashes in Digana, central Kandy (Reuters)

A government minister said the latest violence in Kandy had been whipped up by people from outside the area. “There is an organized conspiracy behind these incidents,” Sarath Amunugama, a senior minister told reporters in Colombo.

He said the government will implement the rule of law impartially in the overwhelmingly Buddhist nation in which Muslims make up 9 percent of the 21 million population, the smallest minority after ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindus.

Police ordered Dialog Axiata, the country’s largest mobile phone service provider, to restrain internet connections in the Kandy district after postings appeared on Facebook threatening attacks on Muslims.

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilalt; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Michael Perry

Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots

March 6, 2018


© AFP/File | Sri Lankan police have imposed a curfew in the riot-hit central district of Kandy, home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics
COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots that have killed at least two people and damaged dozens of mosques and homes.”The cabinet of ministers decided on tough measures, including a 10-day nationwide state of emergency,” Minister of City Planning Rauff Hakeem said as police imposed a curfew in the riot-hit central district of Kandy.

The government deployed heavily-armed police commandos in the hill station region, which is popular with tourists, after rioters defied an overnight curfew and went on the rampage.

The curfew in the district was extended after the body of a Muslim man was pulled from the ashes of a burnt building, threatening to further raise communal tensions that have flared up across Sri Lanka in recent weeks.

The emergency declaration gives authorities sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods, and allows the government to deploy forces where needed.

It is the first time in seven years Sri Lanka has resorted to such a measure. The island nation was under a state of emergency for nearly three decades as government forces battled Tamil rebels in a civil war that ended in 2009.

Hakeem said the riots were concentrated in Kandy — home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics — but the government wanted to send a strong message given outbreaks of communal violence elsewhere recently.

A police spokesman said earlier Tuesday hundreds of commandos from the police Special Task Force had been deployed to Kandy to restore order and enforce the curfew.

Muslim homes, business and mosques were badly damaged in riots Monday triggered by the death of a Sinhalese man at the hands of a mob last week.

The Sinhalese are a mainly Buddhist ethnic group making up nearly three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. Muslims account for 10 percent of its population.

More than two dozen arrests have been made and an inquiry opened into police conduct in Kandy, just the latest region to be plagued by religious and ethnic conflict.

Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese.

The government dismissed the allegation as baseless and ordered the arrest of those fomenting unrest in the area.

Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

In June 2014 riots between Buddhists and Muslims left four dead and many injured.

That violence was instigated by a Buddhist extremist group whose leaders are on trial accused of spurring religious conflict.

Indonesia blocks online-blogging site Tumblr over porn

March 6, 2018


© AFP/File | Tumblr has fallen foul of Indonesia’s government
JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia has blocked online blogging service Tumblr over pornographic content, the government said Tuesday, in Jakarta’s latest crackdown on obscenity.

The government of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation blocked Tumblr on Monday, saying the New York-based company had not replied to its February letter demanding that pornographic content be scrubbed from the platform within 48 hours.

The ministry of technology and information said it had received multiple reports about obscene content on the microblogging and social networking website, which has about 400 million blogs on its service globally.

“After investigating, we found at least 360 Tumblr accounts contained pornographic content,” ministry spokesman Noor Iza told AFP.

Tumblr could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jakarta in 2016 threatened to block Tumblr’s service in the country of 260 million but did not follow through on the threat.

The ministry on Tuesday said Tumblr would be accessible again once the company complied with the government’s order.

The shutdown was met with anger by some internet users.

“Those 360 accounts are less than one percent” of the total users, one said on Twitter.

“It’s like burning an entire forest just to kill one worm. You might as well block Google.”

Indonesia brought in a tough anti-pornography law in 2008 that criminalises any work deemed obscene.

It blocked popular video-sharing website Vimeo in 2014 after accusing it of hosting pornographic content.

Last November the government threatened to ban social network Facebook and messaging app WhatsApp unless the platforms removed obscene Graphics Interchange Format material from their services.

This year Google pulled Blued, one of the world’s largest gay dating apps, from the Indonesian version of its online store in response to government demands.

Stranger Than Science Fiction: The Future for Digital Dictatorships — China is Worried

March 1, 2018

Democracy can be doctored, but that doesn’t mean tech-savvy autocrats have it easy

A man stands on an elevated platform while performing maintenance on a surveillance camera in Shanghai’s financial district last month.
A man stands on an elevated platform while performing maintenance on a surveillance camera in Shanghai’s financial district last month. PHOTO: QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG NEWS

While Americans and Europeans debate whether the internet and social media are undermining democracy, a big question for many Chinese is whether cutting-edge technology strengthens autocratic rule.

China’s government is embracing technologies to monitor its population. A national plan to develop artificial intelligence highlights its “irreplaceable role in effectively maintaining social stability.” Surveillance cameras with facial recognition, policing platforms that crunch big data and the monitoring of smartphones and social media are being deployed.

To some Chinese, it seems their movements, habits and thoughts can be tracked by a government with unchecked power.

So is a digital dictatorship all powerful?

That’s a question that author Wang Lixiong set out to answer in his dystopian novel “Ceremony.” Released by Taiwan’s Locus Publishing in December, “Ceremony” describes a China in 2021 that isn’t far off from how the nation is today. The leader wants to stay in office beyond mandated term limits and uses an anticorruption campaign to vanquish rivals. Surveillance is ubiquitous.

In the end, the ruler is assassinated by his tech savvy spy chief, using mini-drones in the shape of bees. The outcome, Mr. Wang says, underscores the vulnerability of a digital dictatorship.

“The Achilles’ heel for a regime like this is that it needs the assistance of people who understand technology,” he says. “These people can manipulate the technology for their own benefit. And just like the government, they can do so at much lower costs and higher efficiency.”

“Ceremony” felt especially relevant this past week after the Communist Party endorsed amending the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, thereby removing an institutional check on China’s already powerful leader, Xi Jinping.

The book manages to capture a change in mood for some Chinese, especially liberal intellectuals like Mr. Wang, about technology and China’s authoritarian political system. Less than a decade ago, the internet and social media looked like powerful tools to promote freer expression and a more open, tolerant political order. Now it’s techno-pessimism that prevails.

Police tried to stop Mr. Wang from publishing his novel. They visited him several times at his home. The book is banned in mainland China and is only available at several independent bookstores in Hong Kong, as well as in democratic Taiwan.

Much in “Ceremony” sounds familiar to experts studying the Chinese government’s attempts to master the latest technologies, from aggravated internal rivalries to the ways AI, big data and surveillance cameras cut the financial costs of suppression.

Elsa B. Kania, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, calls the AI revolution “a key test” of the Communist Party’s capacity to harness new technologies to advance development while minimizing their disruptive effects.

Already, tension is brewing between the government and big tech companies like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. Beijing wants them to take the lead in China’s AI revolution because they have the money, talent and data.

As their capabilities rise, Ms. Kania says, the tech firms may be perceived as a challenge to government authorities. Meanwhile, the companies are looking to expand globally and therefore don’t want to be seen as tools of Beijing, says Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Using artificial intelligence can be unpredictable and so it isn’t risk-free, says Ms. Kania.

Last August, Tencent had to take down two AI-enabled chatbots from QQ, its popular messaging app. One gave a simple “No” when asked “Do you love the Communist Party?” The other chatbot said its “China Dream”—a slogan associated with Mr. Xi—was to go to America.

Wang Lixiong, author of the dystopian novel “Ceremony,” in Beijing recently. His book describes a China in 2021 that isn’t dissimilar from how the nation is today.
Wang Lixiong, author of the dystopian novel “Ceremony,” in Beijing recently. His book describes a China in 2021 that isn’t dissimilar from how the nation is today. PHOTO: TSERING WOESER

Then there’s bureaucratic rivalry, which Ms. Sacks says is an underappreciated factor holding back Beijing’s ambitions. “Right now different government departments have different pieces of that data pie, and they don’t want to share that information,” she says.

When I told her that the tech-savvy spy chief in Mr. Wang’s book is the state security minister who has access to nearly all data in the country, she responded: “That person doesn’t exist yet in the Chinese bureaucracy.”

Technology can still empower individuals against a powerful government. Mr. Wang cites the example of Guo Wengui, a tycoon who fled to the U.S. ahead of a corruption probe.

For many months last year, Mr. Guo transfixed China’s chattering classes, taking to Twitter from his Manhattan penthouse to lob corruption allegations at senior Chinese officials.

To contain the damage, Beijing dispatched Ministry of State Security officials to try to lure him homeCensors and police worked to keep Mr. Guo’s name and accusations off social media.

“He wreaked havoc on the reputation of the Communist Party by using the most rudimentary modern technology: social media,” says Mr. Wang, the author. “In the past, it would require a lot of costly propaganda operations to achieve similar effects.”

In “Ceremony,” the government embeds chips that combine radio-frequency identification tags and nanotechnology in shoes to monitor the whereabouts of its citizens.

I told Mr. Wang that those technologies seem less sophisticated than what’s already in use in Xinjiang, China’s Central Asian frontier region. There, the government has deployed facial-recognition cameras, smartphone readers, DNA collection and data-crunching policing systems to try to quell sporadic antigovernment violence by militant Muslims.

“Reality beats fiction all the time, especially in China,” he responds.

Write to Li Yuan at


Turkey says U.N. resolution on Syria ceasefire won’t impact Afrin offensive — Now Syria and Turkey Ignore UN Security Council — Is the UN Now Useless? — Ask The Rohingya

February 25, 2018


ANKARA (Reuters) – A resolution accepted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council for a 30-day ceasefire across Syria will not impact Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish fighters in Afrin, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Sunday.

The U.N. resolution on Saturday followed seven straight days of bombing by pro-government forces of the rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta, in one of the bloodiest offensives of the war. Turkey earlier welcomed the resolution.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; editing by John Stonestreet




Rohingya exodus still growing, six months into crisis

UN Says Terror in Myanmar is Genocide — But Nobody Much Cares

TEKNAF (BANGLADESH) (AFP) – Hundreds of desperate Rohingya Muslims are still pouring over the Myanmar border into Bangladesh every week, bringing harrowing accounts of torture and murder, six months after a military crackdown sparked the massive refugee crisis.

One of the recent arrivals, Nur Mohammad, said his village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state was surrounded by Buddhist vigilantes for days before they were allowed to leave.

“The Moghs (Buddhists) torched our houses, kept us confined and starving,” Mohammad said. “Villages are razed to the ground. We walked for days through mountains to reach here.”

Thirty-year-old Enayetullah was among the 200 Rohingya who crossed the Naf river into Bangladesh on Friday.

Most of his neighbours had left earlier, part of a 700,000-strong Rohingya exodus since August 25, leaving behind desolate and burned-out villages.

“We stayed all these months hoping the situation will be fine. But in recent weeks, security forces have taken away our young men. If they abduct 10, only one returns,” Enayetullah told AFP.

Enayetullah also accused Myanmar security forces of torching his shop, prompting him and his three brothers to flee their home in Mognapara village near the town of Buthidaung.

The military crackdown in the north of Rakhine has been termed “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations and the United States.

While Bangladesh and Myanmar talk of repatriating the refugees, the influx continues. Some days 200 people cross the border, on others a few dozen make the perilous journey. More than 2,500 have entered the overflowing camps in Bangladesh so far in February.

Hundreds of Rohingya villages have been torched in the crackdown, according to refugees and monitoring groups. Human Rights Watch said Friday that another 55 villages have been razed since November.

The Rohingya have been systematically stripped of their legal rights in mainly Buddhist Myanmar in recent decades and face rampant discrimination.

Myanmar denies seeking to eradicate the minority but refuses to give UN investigators access to an area where thousands of Rohingya are believed to have been killed.

In November Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate some 750,000 Rohingya over two years. Last week Dhaka sent a list of 8,000 names to Myanmar for verification.

– No going back –

But Rohingya leaders bluntly refuse to return. The UN says anyone who goes back must be a volunteer, while Myanmar shows no sign of accepting the Rohingya as full citizens.

“If they send us back, we’ll be tortured or killed. We would rather be killed here in Bangladesh. Here, at least I’ll get a Muslim burial,” said Mohammad Elias, whose group has staged protests against repatriation in recent weeks.

According to the UN, since the repatriation deal was signed on November 23, nearly 70,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh through different routes in and near Cox’s Bazar district.

“Those who came in recent days said they were tortured,” Mainuddin Khan, Teknaf town police chief, told AFP.

Some Rohingya who remained in Rakhine’s three main Muslim districts said the situation has improved in parts of the region, but life in the empty villages was unbearable.

Maun Maung Tin, a Rohingya from Maungdaw, said it was impossible to buy or sell goods and they were afraid to complain to authorities.

“The new refugees say that they feel unsafe, threatened and harassed at home, in villages that are often abandoned,” said Kate Nolan, coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Bangladesh.

Aid agencies say there is still a critical risk of life-threatening diseases in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, where most refugees live in flimsy tarpaulin-and-bamboo huts.

A new threat looms with the cyclone season that starts in April. The massive storms have killed hundreds of thousands along the coast in the past five decades.

“We are concerned about the nature of the shelters, how robust they are and if they are really prepared and equipped for the heavy rains,” said MSF’s Nolan.

Despite the cyclone risk, the Rohingya say they are unwilling to go back.

“At least there is adequate food here and there is no one to kill or torture you,” said Enayetullah.

by Suzauddin Rubel in Cox’s Bazar and Shafiqul Alam in Dhaka
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and suit
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing


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Daesh militants waging fresh bid to set up Southeast Asian caliphate

February 23, 2018


Daesh-linked militants occupied Marawi City south of the Philippines for over five months before government forces retook control in October last year. (AFP)
MANILA: Months after being routed from the southern Philippine city of Marawi, militants are waging a fresh and deadly bid to set up a Southeast Asian caliphate in the same region, the military warned Friday.
The gunmen have mustered a force of about 200 fighters and fought a series of skirmishes with the security forces this year after government forces retook Marawi last October, Col. Romeo Brawner said.
“They have not abandoned their objective to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” said Brawner, the commander of a Marawi-based military task force.
“Mindanao is the most fertile ground,” he said, referring to the country’s southern region.
Struggling with widespread poverty and armed Muslim insurgencies seeking independence or self-rule, Mindanao must improve poor supervision of Islamic schools or madrasas where most young gunmen are recruited, he added.
He said the armed forces are retooling to meet the challenge of the Maute group, which occupied Marawi over five months and has pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based Daesh group.
Gunmen who escaped during the early days of the US-backed operation to recapture Marawi are leading the recruitment effort, flush with cash, guns and jewelry looted from the city’s banks and private homes, Brawner said.
The recruits are mostly locals, but an unspecified number of Indonesians, some with bomb-making skills, have recently arrived there, he said.
Mindanao military officials said the Maute gunmen murdered three traders in the town of Piagapo, near Marawi, in November last year.
Three militants were killed in Pantar, another neighboring town, on February 8, while three of the Piagapo merchants’ suspected killers were arrested in that town last month.
The military also reported skirmishes with the Maute gunmen in the towns of Masiu and Pagayawan near Marawi last month.
The renewed fighting came after President Rodrigo Duterte and other political leaders in the Mindanao region warned of a potential repeat of the siege of Marawi which claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Duterte has imposed martial law over Mindanao until the end of the year to curb the militants’ challenge.
Ebrahim Murad, head of the Philippines’ main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014, also warned Tuesday that militants were recruiting and could seize another Filipino city.

‘Marawi attackers set sights on 2nd city’

February 20, 2018


Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.  Credit KJ Rosales

(Associated Press) – February 21, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Islamic State (IS) group-linked militants planned but failed to attack another southern Philippine city shortly after troops crushed their siege of Marawi last year, the leader of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group said yesterday.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said the plot to attack either Iligan or Cotabato city fell apart after the Marawi siege ended, but the extremists have continued to recruit new fighters to recover from their battle defeats.

Murad said his group relayed intelligence about the planned attacks on the two cities, which are bustling commercial hubs, to government forces through ceasefire channels established during years of peace talks. He made the comments at a forum with foreign news correspondents, stressing how his group has helped battle terrorism.

President Duterte and military officials have also said that remnants of the radical groups behind the five-month siege that devastated Marawi were hunting for new recruits and plotting new attacks.

Duterte mentioned the threats in a speech late Monday in which he criticized Canada for imposing restrictions on the use of combat helicopters the Philippines has sought to buy. He has ordered the military to cancel the purchase.

“They are about to retake another city in the Philippines or to take another geographical unit but I couldn’t use the helicopters,” Duterte said, explaining that the Bell helicopters could not be employed in combat assaults.

Duterte has not elaborated on the nature of post-Marawi attack threats.

Murad’s group, which the military estimates has about 10,000 fighters scattered mostly in the marshy south, hopes Congress will pass legislation this year implementing a 2014 autonomy pact with the government.

He said the prospects appear bright, but added that the rebels are aware that the government failed to enforce peace pacts in the past, prompting disgruntled rebels to form breakaway groups.

The rebel leader warned that restive young Muslims in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation, may be drawn to extremism if the peace efforts fail.

As IS group militants lose bases in the Middle East, “we will increasingly find them in our midst as they seek new strategic grounds where the hold of government is weak such as in Mindanao,” Murad said.

Last year, Murad said his group lost 24 fighters who were defending rural communities from breakaway militants who have aligned with the IS. “We know we cannot decisively win the war against extremism if we cannot win the peace in the halls of Congress,” Murad said.

The new Muslim autonomous zone, which generally covers five poor provinces, is to replace an existing one that is seen as a dismal failure. The new plan grants much more autonomy, power and guaranteed resources to the region.

The rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for Muslim self-rule in Mindanao in an insurrection that has killed about 150,000 combatants and civilians. The United States and other Western governments have backed the autonomy deal, partly to prevent the insurgency from breeding extremists.